Foster mother of boy who died in fire was investigated by DCFS earlier this year
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The relative caring for 3-year-old Maqkwone Jones, who died in a fire early Sunday, was investigated earlier this year after a complaint of inadequate child supervision, it was revealed at a hearing Thursday.
Though that accusation was determined to be unfounded, that woman now is being investigated again — for her role in Maqkwone’s death.
Maqkwone and three siblings had been placed with the relative last year; she was named their foster mother after the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services removed the children from the home of their birth mother due to allegations of abuse and neglect.
Sunday morning, Jones’ foster mother allegedly left him alone in her Grand Crossing apartment with an adult friend who didn’t know he was there, DCFS representative Neil Skene had said earlier this week. But at Thursday’s hearing, DCFS supervisory regional counsel Colleen Flaherty said the agency is still investigating to determine if that is indeed the case.
Judge Patrick Murphy balked at this statement, and berated the individuals in question for moving so slowly.
“It’s been four days,” he said. “I could find out in an hour if there was someone present or not. We’re here for the children, not the bureaucracy.”
Murphy grew more frustrated upon learning of the complaints about inadequate supervision filed against the foster mother earlier this year. While DCFS determined those claims to be unfounded, Murphy said it was relevant given the nature of the case and demanded more information.
Maqkwone and three of his siblings were put in the foster mother’s care in September 2017, but the siblings were at a relative’s house at the time of the fire.
They also have an infant sibling who is being cared for by Brittani Pace, the birth mother’s cousin; Pace attended Thursday’s hearing.
In the wake of the fire, the three siblings who had been staying at the foster mother’s apartment, in the 1400 block of East 67th Place, have been placed in different locations, though Pace wants all of them to be with her.
For now, however, a 2-year-old sister is in an emergency foster home, and two brothers, ages 8 and 9, are in psychiatric wards.
Those two boys were hospitalized after expressing suicidal and homicidal thoughts; the older boy is accused of choking another foster child, according to a representative of Hephzibah Children’s Association who attended the hearing.
None of the children have been told Maqkwone is dead, the Hephzibah representative said. The boys won’t be allowed to go to funeral on Tuesday unless cleared by the hospitals at which they are staying.
While Pace said the boys have shown aggression in the past, she insisted they should be with relatives at a time like this.
“They should have been with family,” Pace said. “After what happened at that house, they should have been with family so we could explain what’s going on.”
Murphy, along with the representatives and case workers present, agreed it was in the best interest of the children to be reunited for the time being to allow them to properly grieve, but no final decision was made Thursday.
The hearing will continue Friday.